by Alice Cherbonnier
LOUELLA MASSAGED her feet while she watched the 6 o'clock news. Who would've believed being a check-out clerk would be so painful? she mused as she eyed the peppy female announcer and mentally calculated how much it cost to keep her straw-like hair so blonde.
The phone rang. Louella hobbled to reach it. It was her mother, who lived next door. "Lou? Can you come over right away? We've got a problem."
Louella was tempted to respond with a smart remark, like, "I'm over 30 years old and I've got my own problems. See ya!" but she was driven by guilt (she still hadn't told them she'd won a million dollars in the Lottery) and obligation.
"Okay. Be over in a couple of minutes." Louella went upstairs to the bathroom medicine chest and selected some double-whammy aspirin. It's probably Candy going to jail again, or Mason stealing a car because his got repo'd, she thought bitterly. Why can't they just move to California or Florida and leave us alone? Louella's feelings toward her sister and nephew were decidedly mixed.
Her father met her at the door. He looked sad and angry at the same time. Her mother and Mason and Candy were seated around the living room. Her father laboriously took his place in his La-Z-Boy and reclined it.
"So what's up?" asked Louella. "You all look pretty grim." Uh oh. They're counting on me to solve this. I can feel it.
Her father cleared his throat. "Uh, we just found out something pretty important we're going to have to deal with. Mason, you tell it."
Mason was hunched over as if he were in pain. "Well, uh, ya see, uh, there's this, uh, girl I've been kinda, uh, seeing, you know what I mean?"
Louella felt like screaming at him, "Get to the point, you idiot! Enough with the `uhs' and the `you knows'!" She held her tongue. "Yeah, sure, I know," she said. "Go ahead."
"Well, um, we, uh, kinda like, fooled around, ya know what I mean?"
No, I don't know what you mean, you little whelp! thought Louella. "Um hm," she murmured to get him to continue.
"So, well, uh-I got her pregnant. Ya know? I mean, we didn't think it would happen, ya know? I mean, she said she was on the pill and all-"
"So who is she?" broke in Louella, impatient at her 19-year-old nephew and his stupidity.
"Well, uh, she's kinda cute, lives a couple blocks from here."
"How old is she?"
"Um, well, she's almost sixteen."
"Oh, that's really great! Jail bait!"
"Louella, you can't be harder on him than he is on himself right now," interrupted Candy. "But he wants to do the right thing."
"Yeah, we want to go and have the baby and all," said Mason, twisting his hands and looking her in the eye with desperation. "We were hoping we could move in with you."